No one eats quite like Southerners, and the uniqueness of this American cuisine goes far beyond fried chicken, black-eyed peas and greens. Southerners do everything a little differently, including breakfast. If you wander outside the region, you’re unlikely to find grits (with cheese, shrimp or butter) or the super salty country ham, but those things are always on a Southern breakfast table. What else do Southerners always eat for breakfast, and how can a Northerner tackle those dishes? To find out, we emailed with true Southerners to find out what's on their breakfast table. And now we get to share their favorites with you!
Nearly every Southerner we spoke to said that one thing was always, always, always on their breakfast table: biscuits. “There are a lot of opinions around the best grits and the best biscuits, but having them on the table is what makes it a Southern meal,” said Ashley Mitchell of South Carolina. She mentioned that biscuit sandwiches are a great grab-and-go breakfast, but there are plenty of fixings for the table, too.
For the Southern Biscuits recipe, click here.
“Gravy is not just a Southern favorite, it’s also a mainstay for the Southern breakfast table. There are several thick and creamy gravies to choose from,” chef Jennifer Hill Booker of Georgia said. “Truth be told, we never turn down gravy — especially at breakfast, where we can pour it over everything and dig in.” Sausage gravy is the most signature of the Southern gravies.
For the Spicy Biscuits and Gravy recipe, click here.
Culinary director Johnathan Flores and executive banquet chef Wade Goodmay of Texas Christian University highlighted chocolate gravy, a true Southern staple seldom seen outside the region. “It turns beloved biscuits into a sweet dish with quick and simple chocolate gravy enjoyed by both children and adults,” they said. We can get behind that!
For the Buttermilk Biscuits With Melted Chocolate recipe, click here.
While chocolate gravy and sausage gravy are scrumptious, those dishes are not a particularly healthy thing to eat literally every day. And nothing goes better with biscuits than jam. “A good jam or preserve to put on a biscuit goes a long way,” Mitchell mentioned. “Especially if it’s a homemade one!”
For the Quick and Easy Jam recipe, click here.
Susanna Williams of the Inn at Patrick Square in South Carolina swears by chicken and waffles. Though this dish originated up north, this soul food classic is beloved in the South. “It’s like having breakfast and dinner all at one time. Make sure the chicken is always fried. You never want to serve grilled chicken and waffles as a Southern breakfast,” Williams noted.
For the Fried Chicken and Waffles recipe, click here.
“In Tennessee where I lived for 27 years, [a Southern breakfast is] country ham. I make a joke about country ham that it is a way to get a little meat with your salt,” Southerner Mary Joye told us. For the uninitiated, country ham is salt-cured (and sometimes smoked), resulting in a heavily salty taste that goes great with biscuits, eggs, cheese and other breakfast staples.
“Fried potatoes are a must on the Southern breakfast table, and there are no rules on how they're prepared. Of course there is the classic hash browns, diced potatoes and cottage fries. If I'm having guests for breakfast or brunch, (we Southerners love brunch), then I'll add some onions, bell pepper and toss in some fresh herbs towards the end,” Atlanta chef Jennifer Booker revealed. She noted even french fries are fair game for the breakfast table. They are fried potatoes, after all!
For the Traditional Hash Browns recipe, click here.
Nearly every Southerner we emailed with named one dish that is a true Southern staple: grits. “Grits are another thing the rest of the world takes for granted as a breakfast food but they’re really quite versatile outside of shrimp and grits. Typically my family would load them up with butter, cheese, and bacon and then top it with an egg for a filling breakfast. Or you can serve it with a little sugar for a sweet take on grits,” Cynthia Hoyt of Darling Down South said. “There’s really no wrong way to go with making grits, unless you try to make them healthy. They need flavor, and flavor comes from fat.”
For the True Grits recipe, click here.
Johnny Cakes are a twist on the pancake you won’t find much outside of the South. What are they exactly? “Similar to pancakes, these are more like a thin fried cornbread. Eat like pancakes with maple syrup or a pat of butter,” Flores and Goodmay said.
For the Cross-Country Johnny Cakes recipe, click here.
Southern breakfasts are heavy on the savory side, but you need something sweet to balance it all out! And at least in Texas, that means pecans. Flores and Goodmay recommended pecan raisin bread and pecan coffee cake, but we think these easy pecan breakfast buns are the perfect sweet bite. And once you’re done making your way through a Southern breakfast, consider these 50 other Southern dishes for every meal of the day.
For the Pecan Breakfast Buns recipe, click here.
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Dishes You’ll Only Find in the South